Following hot on the heels of our public talk on the subject of Seafood, here is a recipe to introduce you to a fish species that you may not have tried: rays. Several species are available – but choose responsibly sourced or certified sustainable fish where possible. (See info on sustainability of rays at the end of this recipe). Many outlets sell ray wings pre-prepared, but if only whole rays are on sale, ask your fish monger to prepare the wings and cheeks for you as these are the main edible parts. This recipe eschews strong flavourings such as lemon, coriander, garlic, passata or chilli, to enable the authentic delicate flavour of the fish to shine through.
Recipe: Ray wings with Sauteed Summer Vegetables
- Ray wings, one medium wing per person (about 200 g)
- Summer vegetables (I used tomato, courgette, pepper and chard, but spinach and a couple of cloves of garlic and a handful of fresh parsley. Red onion and mushrooms could have been included but I didn’t have time to include these)
- Butternut squash
- Clarified butter/Ghee
- Salt & pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Cut the squash into rings (1cm thick, roughly). Place a large dollop of ghee onto a baking tray and heat in the oven. When it is hot remove from the oven and dip first one side then the other of each disc of butternut squash in the hot ghee and arrange them all on the baking sheet (I use a glass pyrex one which I got from Sainsbury’s and use all the time). Put back in the oven and cook for about 20-40 mins, or until soft when tested with a sharp knife. (The thinner the rings, the quicker they cook, but the more space they take up on the baking tray).
Meanwhile chop all the summer fresh veg you are going to use in your accompanying veg dish and get them going in whichever oil you fancy (olive, coconut, duck fat… whatever you like) stirring them occasionally on the hob.
Preheat a second buttery roasting tin/tray for the ray wings, using enough butter or ghee to cover the bottom. Season them with salt and black pepper on both sides. Place the wings in the hot roasting tin, then pop them in to the oven for 10 minutes at 180°C/gas 4.
The bones (actually cartilage) in ray wings are no problem: they are soft and easy to avoid – so good for children too. They create a comb like fan throughout the wing, allowing the meat to be easily removed. Once all the flesh has been picked off one side, it can be flipped over and the other side eaten.
SUSTAINABILITY OF RAYS: It is in all of our interests to demand sustainable seafood and not destroy stocks for future generations. This is an eminently achievable goal that requires us not to avoid eating fish, but to support those fishermen and suppliers that are working towards the same end. Rays are generally of questionable sustainability as they take many years to mature, however, The North Devon Fishermen’s Association (NFDA) are working hard to get certification for Bristol Channel stocks (read their compelling story here) – and their efforts are being recognised by the UK Marine Conservation Society (read their info on ray sustainability here). The ray wings in this recipe came from the fish counter of Waitrose, who have a responsible fishing policy and are working towards all their fish being independently certified as sustainable by 2017.
I bought the ray wings for this recipe the same day I purchased Rick Stein’s Fish and Shellfish recipe book. (Now I think of it, I must have looked a bit odd standing at the fish counter thumbing through this tome!)
It’s a superbly practical fish cook book, that starts with a large section on basic preparation of fish and shellfish by species – sufficient to give you confidence if trying something new. The latter part of the book provides really practical recipe ideas that are easy to modify. Many of these are grain-free, but most of the ones that are not can be modified with a little trial and error by substituting ground almonds or chestnut flour.
Interestingly, I met Rick’s brother, John Stein who is a professor of Neurophysiology, at one of the Oxford-based Food And Behaviour (FAB) meetings – he is on their scientific advisory board. Their mission statement is “to be a local and international leader of scientific research into how nutrition affects the human brain and mind, and an intellectual and strategic force for improving public education and professional practice in this domain.” Their main area of research is fish oils, DHA and EPA!